G.F. Handel: “Il Trionfo del Tempo” (1707)

August 7, 2014 | 7:30pm | Pre-concert chat with host Matthew White at 6:45 in the Royal Bank Cinema
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Alexander Weimann, music director; Amanda Forsythe, soprano Bellezza; Krisztina Szabó, soprano Piacere; Reginald L. Mobley, alto Disinganno; Colin Balzer, tenor Tempo; Pacific Baroque Orchestra

“Handel doesn’t miss a trick…. theatrical cunning and an all-embracing sense of joy.” (The Vancouver Sun, August 11, 2013) Leave the thorn. Gather the rose. After last summer’s groundbreaking performance of Israel in Egypt and the critical acclaim lavished on 2012′s Orlando, we’ve selected another extraordinary work from Handel’s oeuvre for our 2014 Festival centrepiece. Touring to the Ottawa Chamber Music Festival before coming to Vancouver – a first for EMV – this production will reach greater heights of artistic expression than ever before. Beauty and Pleasure abound in Handel’s first oratorio, the source of his ongoing genius.

Mahony and Sons is proud to sponsor Early Music Vancouver. Join us before or after your concert and make your experience a great one. For reservations visit mahonyandsons.com. We validate parking at our UBC location.

Programme notes

Have you ever dreamed about visiting the past on some momentous occasion? Hearing Lincoln at Gettysburg, seeing Nijinsky dance Spectre de la Rose, watching Hank Aaron break the Babe’s home run record? Here’s a somewhat offbeat nominee for lovers of great music: Imagine being among the eminent Romans invited to the intimate auditorium of the Clementine Order to hear the premiere of an oratorio by the latest virtuoso to take the music-mad aristocracy of the city by storm: a cherubic 22-year-old from Germany by the name of Georg Friedrich Händel.

When his Triumph of Time and Good Counsel had its first performance, Händel was only four years out of his birthplace, the provincial Prussian city of Halle. But acclaim for his dizzying facility as an organist had preceded him, and most of the audience at the Collegio Clementino would have been there more to hear him improvise on that instrument than to listen to a two-hour-long musico-dramatic debate written by a pillar of the Catholic Church establishment, Cardinal Benedetto Pamphili.

They got what they came for: Pamphili made room in his pious music-drama for his protege to perform a three-movement organ concerto, in the guise of a “lovely youth” with “wingèd hands” who pops up unexpectedly among the personnel of the Palace of Pleasure described in the libretto.

Did they also appreciate what else they heard that night: the earliest surviving music-drama of one of the greatest composers in that form who ever lived, the first of fifty-odd composed over the next 50 years or so?

There’s reason to believe they did. Despite the steady hostility of an older rival for Pamphili’s patronage, The Triumph of Time was revived annually for at least two years after its premiere: a very rare testimony to the power of the work in a time when even the greatest composers were accustomed to having their music treated like disposable ephemera.

Pamphili spared no effort or expense to ensure the piece got an attentive hearing. He engaged the finest singers in the city, and provided his private orchestra to accompany it, led by the great violin virtuoso Archangelo Corelli, himself among the most eminent living Italian composers. In more than equal exchange for the Cardinal’s support, Händel turned Pamphili’s rather frigid and conventional verse drama into dazzling entertainment, without betraying its roots as a Christian morality play.

The “Story” is simple. Beauty (she could just as easily have been called “the Soul”) has been feeling a little troubled lately. Is there perhaps more to life than an endless pursuit of fun? Her handmaid Pleasure says no, but the figure of Time enters with a different message: Repent your frivolous ways before it’s too late, he thunders. He’s backed up by his more discreet ally Good Counsel, who prefers to work by persuasion rather than threats.

And so, in Pamphili’s libretto, it goes: He says, she says, he says, she says, with the outcome never in doubt: This is 1707, after all, and we’re in the hands of an author who is also a Roman Catholic cardinal.

What turns all the moralizing back-and-forth into real drama is Handel’s endless string of musical surprises: Within a structure of conventional da capo arias, he slips in jigs, lullabies, and calls to battle, seductions, laments, glees, and prayers, each with a distinctive instrumental accompaniment and each daring its performer to cut loose and show us just how dazzling he or she can improvise on the written notes of the songs.

By the time Pleasure is decisively defeated (and departs in a whirlwind of angry coloratura), we have been treated to such a feast of brilliant singing and playing that Beauty’s final peaceful prayer makes a deliciously restful conclusion.

It makes no sense to talk about the greatest this or that in the career of a composer as stupefyingly prolific and consistent as Handel. But The Triumph of Time is still something special: the first emergence into the limelight of an artist clearly marked for greatness, and manifesting the rare kind of energy that makes you want to watch him every step of the way.

Despite that fact, The Triumph of Time was virtually unknown to music-lovers for over two centuries. Even after the great rediscovery of Händel’s dramatic output began in the mid-20th century, it remained obscure, a footnote even in scholarly studies of the composer’s vast output. (The most eminent Händel expert of the day, Winton Dean, barely mentions its name in his three huge and exhaustive volumes on the operas and oratorios.)

Fortunately, the early-music movement led to a re-examination of even the most arcane corners of the Händel repertory, and The Triumph of Time was soon recognized, along with its sister work from Roman days The Resurrection, as a seminal work, presaging much of what the composer achieved, perhaps with more temperance and polish, in the next five decades.

When fantasizing about the creation of this early masterwork, it’s also interesting to consider what might have happened if Carlo Cesarini, Händel’s bitter rival for Cardinal Pamfili’s patronage hadn’t ultimately prevailed. Perhaps there never would have been an “English Handel”, and the young genius, coddled and cossetted, might have elected to stay in Rome.

We’ll never know; but when Cesarini won the battle, there was someone ready to take advantage of the situation: Vincenzo Grimani, a power behind the papal throne, became Handel’s patron, and took him along when he was appointed to the role of papal regent in Naples. But Grimani died in 1710, and Handel was once again on the lookout for a permanent post. As it happened, Georg Ludwig, Duke of Hannover was looking for a house composer at the time, and when Georg was invited to change his name to George and become King of England, guess who went along for the ride? – Roger Downey

Artist Bios

Alexander Weimann, music director

Alexander Weimann is one of the most sought-after ensemble directors, soloists, and chamber music partners of his generation. After traveling the world with ensembles like Tragicomedia, Cantus Cölln, the Freiburger Barockorchester, the Gesualdo Consort and Tafelmusik, he now focuses on his activities as Artistic Director of the Pacific Baroque Orchestra in Vancouver, and as music director of Les Voix Baroques, Le Nouvel Opéra and Tempo Rubato.

Recently, he has conducted the Montreal-based baroque orchestra Ensemble Arion, Les Violons du Roy, and the Portland Baroque Orchestra; both the Orchestre Symphonique de Québec and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra have regularly featured him as a featured soloist. In the last years, he has repeatedly conducted the Victoria Symphony and Symphony Nova Scotia, most recently with Handel’s Messiah.

Alexander Weimann can be heard on some 100 CDs. He made his North American recording debut with the ensemble Tragicomedia on the CD Capritio (Harmonia Mundi USA), and won worldwide acclaim from both the public and critics for his 2001 release of Handel’s Gloria (ATMA Classique). Volume 1 of his recordings of the complete keyboard works by Alessandro Scarlatti appeared in May 2005. Critics around the world unanimously praised it, and in the following year it was nominated for an Opus Prize as the best Canadian early music recording. Recently, he has also released an Opus Award-winning CD of Handel oratorio arias with superstar soprano Karina Gauvin and his new Montreal-based ensemble Tempo Rubato, a recording of Bach’s St. John’s Passion, various albums with Les Voix Baroques of Buxtehude, Carissimi and Purcell, all with rave reviews. His latest album with Karina Gauvin and Arion Baroque Orchestra (Prima Donna) won a Juno Award in 2013, and a complete recording of Handel’s Orlando was released in the fall of 2013, with an exciting group of international star soloists and the Pacific Baroque Orchestra performing.

Alexander Weimann was born in 1965 in Munich, where he studied the organ, church music, musicology (with a summa cum laude thesis on Bach’s secco recitatives), theatre, medieval Latin, and jazz piano, supported by a variety of federal scholarships for the highly talented. In addition to his studies, he has attended numerous master classes in harpsichord and historical performance. To ground himself further in the roots of western music, he became intensely involved over the course of several years with Gregorian chant. Alexander Weimann has moved to the Vancouver area with his wife, 3 children and pets, and tries to spend as much time as possible in his garden and kitchen.


Amanda Forsythe, soprano Bellezza

Amanda Forsythe has been praised by Opera News for her “light and luster”, ” “wonderful agility and silvery top notes”.  She has been a winner of the George London Foundation Awards and was sponsored by them in her New York recital début.  She has also received prizes from the Liederkranz Foundation and the Walter W. Naumburg Foundation.

Amanda Forsythe made her European operatic début in the role of Corinna Il viaggio a Reims at the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro which led to an immediate invitation to make her début at the Grand Théâtre de Genève as Dalinda Ariodante.  She returned to the Rossini Opera Festival to perform the role of Rosalia L’equivoco stravagante and Bellini duets in the ‘Malibran’ recital with Joyce di Donato, and, most recently, Jemmy in the nrw production of Guillame Tell for which she received considerable critical acclaim.

She made her débuts at the Bavarian State Opera, Munich as Dalinda Ariodante and as Barbarina Le nozze di Figaro at the Theatre des Champs-Elysées, Paris and at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. She returned to Covent Garden to perform the role of Manto Niobe, regina di Tebe under Thomas Hengelbrock (with subsequent performances at the Grand Theatre de Luxembourg) and Nannetta Falstaff under Daniele Gatti.  She also sang Nannetta for Opéra d’Angers-Nantes.

Amanda Forsythe made her USA stage début at the Boston Early Music Festival, with whom she is now a regular soloist.  Her roles for BEMF have included the title role in Niobe, regina di Tebe, Galatea Acis and Galatea, Aglaure in Lully’s Psyché, Venus Venus and Adonis (John Blow), Drusilla L’incoronazione di Poppea, and Pallas in Eccles’ The Judgment of Paris.

With Opera Boston Amanda Forsythe has appeared as Iris Semele, and Amenaide in Rossini’s Tancredi.  With Boston Baroque she has sung Bastienne in Mozart’s Bastien und Bastienne, Serpina in Pergolesi’s La Serva Padrona, Ninfa/Proserpina in Monteverdi’s Orfeo, Amore in Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria, Oberto in Handel’s Alcina, Lieschen in Bach’s Coffee Cantata and Wedding Cantata,Purcell’s The Fairy Queen, Vivaldi’s Juditha triumphans and Handel’s Messiah.

Equally adept at contemporary music, Amanda Forsythe created the role of Young Margarta/Nuria in Osvaldo Golijov’s Ainadamar, a role which she later repeated with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Calgary Philharmonic.  She also received high critical acclaim for her début as The Angel in the North American première of Peter Eötvös’ opera, Angels in America, a production which was revived at the Ravinia Festival.  She has sung world premières by John Austin and Elena Ruher, and recorded songs by the composer Ken Sullivan.

On the concert platform Amanda Forsythe’s major engagements have included Alexander’s Feast with the Ulster Orchestra and L’allegro, il perseroso, ed il moderato with the Netherlands Radio Chamber Philharmonic, both under Kenneth Montgomery.  She has also sung Rossini Arias at Teatro la Fenice in Venice, Cendrillon in Viardot’s Cendrillon with the Caramoor Festival, Mozart’s Exsultate Jubilate and Vivaldi’s Nulla in Mundo pax sincera with the Omaha Symphony, Carmina Burana with the Rhode Island Philharmonic, Mozart’s Mass in C Minor with the Handel and Haydn Society, Handel’s Israel in Egypt with Emmanuel Music, and Haydn’s Creation with the Charlotte Symphony.  Her other appearances include concerts with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra, Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, the Boston Chamber Music Society, and Apollo’s Fire.

Amanda Forsythe’srecordings with BEMF on the German CPO label include Aglaure Lully’s Psyché and Venus Venus and Adonis, as well as Minerve and La Grande Pretresse in Lully’s Thésée which was nominated for the 2008 Grammy Awards. Her other recordings include Handel’s Messiah with Apollo’s Fire on the Avie label.

Amanda Forsythe most recently sang Jemmy at the Rossini Opera Fesival, Pesaroin the new production of Guillaume Tell, starring Juan Diego Florez and directed by Graham Vick.  Other recent engagements include the title role in Handel’s Teseo with the Philharmonia Baroque, Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater and Vivaldi’s Nulla in mundo with Mercury Baroque, Dafne in Handel’s Apollo e Dafne with Pacific Musicworks, Haydn and Mozart arias with Apollo’s Fire,  Scarlatti Pastorale per la natività and arias from Handel’s Messiah with the Brabants Philharmonic Orchestra in the Netherlands, Dorinda Orlando for Vancouver Early Music Festival, which was also recorded on the ATMA label, Partenope for Boston Baroque and Edilia in Handel’s Almira forBoston Early Music Festival.

Forthcoming highlights include her début at Seattle Opera in the role of Iris Semele, Messiah with Seattle Symphony and return engagements with Boston Early Music Festival, Apollo’s Fire, Philharmonia Baroque and Early Music Vancouver.

Krisztina Szabó, soprano Piacere

In the 2016-17 season, Krisztina Szabó will sing the title role in Rossini’s Cenerentola with Edmonton Opera, and will appear in concert with Tafelmusik (Toronto), Music of the Baroque (Chicago), Grand Philharmonic Choir (Kitchener-Waterloo) and Pax Christi Chorale (Toronto). She will also be a featured performer in Canadian Stage’s All But Gone, a production featuring short plays by Samuel Beckett.

In the 2015-16 season Krisztina Szabó sang the role of Judith in Bluebeard’s Castle (Colorado Music Festival), Thisbe in Pyramus and Thisbe (Canadian Opera Company). She appeared as soloist in Handel’s Messiah (Symphony Nova Scotia, Calgary Philharmonic), in concert with Bravissimo! at Roy Thomson Hall, with Soundstreams, with the Toronto Children’s Chorus, and with Talisker Players.

In 2015, she was nominated for 2 Dora Awards for her performances as The Woman in Erwartung with the COC and in Booster Shots with Tapestry Opera. Career highlights include The Woman in Death and Desire (Against the Grain Theatre), Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni, and Sesto in La clemenza di Tito (Vancouver Opera), Le Pèlerin in L’Amour de loin and Idamante in Idomeneo (COC), Komponist in Ariadne auf Naxos (Stadttheater Klagenfurt), Rosalind in The Mines of Sulphur (Wexford Festival Opera), Cherubino (Le nozze di Figaro) and Meg (Little Women)(Calgary Opera), Dorabella (Mostly Mozart Festival, NY), St. Matthew Passion (Brooklyn Academy of Music), Nerone in Agrippina (L’Opéra de Montréal), and Ruggiero in Alcina and Haydn’s Arianna a Naxos (Les Violons du Roy).

Reginald L. Mobley, alto Disinganno

“It must be said from the beginning that one of the joys of seeing Mobley is hearing his beautiful alto coming out of a big, tall man who looks more like a linebacker for the Miami Dolphins than the P.G. Wodehouse party guest his name might suggest.”

Countertenor Reginald L. Mobley fully intended to speak his art through watercolors and oil pastels until circumstance demanded that his own voice should speak for itself. Since reducing his visual color palette to the black and white of a score, he’s endeavored to open up a wider spectrum onstage.

A longtime member of twice GRAMMY® nominated ensemble Seraphic Fire, Reggie has recently appeared with Agave Baroque, Bach Collegium San Diego, Boston Early Music Festival, Monteverdi Choir & English Baroque Soloists, Pacific MusicWorks, TENET, and The Handel + Haydn Society in the ‘15/’16 season. With the latter, he had the honor of becoming the first Black person to lead H+H during its Bicentennial anniversary.

Never bound by conventional countertenor repertoire, Reggie has a fair bit of non-classical work in tow. His first professional work was in Musical Theatre, and while working in Japan (as a Singer/Actor for Tokyo Disney), he performed cabaret shows of gospel, jazz, and torch songs in jazz clubs around Tokyo. And though not one to regret, Reggie has considered rediscovering his artistic roots. So if seen post concert, forego an autograph and ask for one of his self-acclaimed stick figure drawings. It’s a start.

Colin Balzer, tenor Tempo

With assured musicality and the varied tonal palette of a Lieder specialist, Canadian lyric tenor Colin Balzer’s North American engagements to date include recitals at New York’s Frick Collection and on the Philadelphia Chamber Music series; concerts with the Florida Orchestra, Portland, New Jersey, Montreal, Utah, Victoria, Ann Arbor, Québec, Atlanta and Indianapolis Symphonies; Early Music Vancouver; Toronto’s Tafelmusik and Toronto Mendelssohn Choir; Les Violons du Roy; the National and Calgary Philharmonics; Ottawa’s National Arts Centre Orchestra; Musica Sacra and the Oratorio Society of New York (both under Kent Tritle) at New York’s Carnegie Hall. In addition he is regularly featured in opera productions at the Boston Early Music Festival, including Steffani’s Niobe, Händel’s Almira, Lully’s Psyche, the title role of Monteverdi’s Orfeo, and Mattheson’s Boris Goudenow.

Guest soloist appearances abroad include Collegium Vocale Gent/ Philippe Herreweghe, Fundacao OSESP Orchestra/Louis Langrée, Les Musiciens du Louvre/Marc Minkowski, Rotterdam Philharmonic/Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Akademie für alte Musik/Marcus Creed, as well as with the RIAS Kammerchor, Het Brabants Orkest, Luxembourg Symphony, Leipzig Baroque Orchestra, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Museumsorchester Salzburg, Radio Kamer Filharmonie (Amsterdam Concertgebouw), Philharmonischer Chor Berlin, Estonian Chamber Choir, Camerata Salzburg and Musik Podium Stuttgart. Operatic forays include Don Ottavio in Mozart’s Don Giovanni at the Bolshoi and in Aix-en-Provence, and Mozart’s La finta giardiniera in Aix and Luxemburg.

Particularly esteemed as a recitalist, he has been welcomed at London’s Wigmore Hall (accompanied by Graham Johnson), the Britten Festival in Aldeburgh, the Vancouver Chamber Music Festival, the Wratislavia Cantans in Poland, and at the Festspielhaus in Baden-Baden. Recordings to date include Wolf’s Italienisches Liederbuch and Eisler and Henze song anthologies. A prizewinner of Holland’s ‘s-Hertogenbosch Competition, the U.K.’s Wigmore Hall Song Competition, Stuttgart, Germany’s Hugo Wolf Competition and Munich’s 55th InternationalARD Competition, Mr. Balzer also holds the rare distinction of earning the Gold Medal at the Robert Schumann Competition in Zwickau with the highest score in 25 years. Born in British Columbia, he received his formal musical training at the University of British Columbia with David Meek, and with Edith Wiens at the Hochschule für Musik Nürnberg/Augsburg.

Pacific Baroque Orchestra

The Pacific Baroque Orchestra (PBO) is recognized as one of Canada’s most exciting and innovative ensembles performing “early music for modern ears.” PBO brings the music of the past up to date by performing with cutting edge style and enthusiasm. Formed in 1990, the orchestra quickly established itself as a force in Vancouver’s burgeoning music scene with the ongoing support of Early Music Vancouver.

In 2009 PBO welcomed Alexander Weimann, one of the most sought-after ensemble directors, soloists, and chamber music partners of his generation, as Artistic Director. Weimann’s imaginative programming and expert leadership have drawn in many new concertgoers, and his creativity and engaging musicianship have carved out a unique and vital place in the cultural landscape of Vancouver.

PBO regularly joins forces with internationally celebrated Canadian guest artists, providing performance opportunities for Canadian musicians while exposing West Coast audiences to a spectacular variety of talent. The Orchestra has also toured B.C., the northern United States and across Canada as far as the East Coast. The musicians of the Pacific Baroque Orchestra have been at the core of many large-scale productions by Early Music Vancouver in recent years, including many summer festival performances led by Alexander Weimann.